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The Process of Globalisation Essay Sample

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The Process of Globalisation Essay Sample

In this paper I’m going to provide a comprehensive explication of the following statement: “The process of Globalisation makes us aware of cultural differences whilst, at the same time, eroding their significance.”

Focusing only on the cultural aspect of globalisations, the views of this phenomenon are characterized by certain ambivalence. Seen positively, Globalisation is associated with progress, development and partnership. It has made culture more accessible for a greater number of citizens. But many fears arise. To name a few, English may gradually replace all other languages, cultural imperialism is a term used to refer about the spread of American culture and lifestyle, Western consumer values harm the traditional vision of life by the representatives of other cultures. “It is fair to say that the impact of globalisation in the cultural sphere has, most generally, been viewed in a pessimistic light.” (Tomlinson, 2003, p.269)

Indeed, the role of culture in the age of advancing globalisation is being gradually changed. Cultural boundaries are swept away by ICTs. But do cultural differences remain? What role do they play?

The opinions are still divided. The majority views this process as an obvious threat to national identities and local communities worldwide. However, some scholars believe that globalisation can benefit the representatives of different cultures, for instance, Tomlison (2003, p.269) argues that “cultural identity, properly understood, is much more the product of globalisation than its victim.”

The question that is running through the mind of scholars, politics, opinion leaders and every citizen is “whether cultural differences will be a help or hindrance to the building of a global village…” (Quappe & Cantatore, n/d, para.3)

Some scholars believe that the world is heading towards a multi-tiered cultural globalisation with the networks revolution and the third industrial revolution. Others think that there is a danger that the new media and the new technologies will contribute to the divorce between cultures and give rise to cultural dualisation.

To my mind, we overstate the scope and importance of globalisation. Moreover, we have a significant number of examples when different cultures can function together peacefully and constructively. Globalisation isn’t a totally new invention, it has been in place since the moment the representatives of two different prehistoric communities first met. During the centuries, examples of the same processes with similar effects, although in their proto-stadiums, were widespread. The U.S. is the first thing that comes into our mind as a “melting pot” of different nations. We can’t say that Americans have no distinct identity or they don’t care bout it; many feel the connection to the country of origin, but everybody feels himself or herself a part of the larger American nation. The same scenario is possible on the global arena as well. Globalisation doesn’t diminish identities, it reshapes them.

Cultural identity has been seen as a sense of belonging to the particular world site. However, this interpretation of identity is no longer valid. If a person has never visited Greece, yet speaks Greek as a mother tongue and recognizes Greek culture as a part of his or her personal culture, what are the reasons not to consider that person Greek?

The popular slogan of all successful federations – “United in Diversity” – really work. People come to recognize the existence of other cultures, values and outlooks; learning how to understand them becomes an essential part of self-education. But encountering other cultures often results in the increased interest in the person’s own background. Globalisation may lead either to self-actualization or it can erode the significance of cultural differences, indeed.

Globalisation “has been associated with the destruction of cultural identities, victims of the accelerating encroachment of a homogenized, westernized, consumer culture. This view…tends to interpret globalisation as a seamless extension of – indeed, as a euphemism for – western cultural imperialism.” (Tomlinson, 2003, p.269)

The reaction to this process can be very different. When globalisation penetrates underdeveloped societies, they are likely to react intolerantly and violently. For them, their culture becomes more and more precious as the world is brought closer and closer by Internet, satellites, WTO and World Bank. Islamic fundamentalism is a very illustrative example of how the culture becomes actualized in the era of globalisation. We shouldn’t forget that “cultural differences” are the trump card in many political campaigns. Other societies, mostly those having a long history of knowing and cooperating with other countries, are likely to pay less and less attention to the cultural differences.

Still, I can’t but agree that a certain form of cultural imperialism exists. It’s mostly on American influence over other nations by means of promoting their cultural artifacts on the global marketplace:

“A report by the UNESCO, showed that the world trade in goods with cultural content almost tripled between 1980 and 1991: from 67 billion dollars to 200 billion dollars. At the core of the entertainment industry – film, music and television – there is a growing dominance of US products. World Trade Organisation rules do not allow countries to block imports on cultural grounds. It is argued that one of the consequences of globalisation will be the end of cultural diversity, and the triumph of a uni-polar culture serving the needs of transnational corporations. Hence the world drinks Coca-Cola, watches American movies and eats American junk food.” (GlobalisationGuide.com, n/d, “Anti-globalisation” section, para.1-2)

It’s specifically evident when the matter concerns culture, entertainment, or the way of doing business. Indeed, it would be very beneficial for America if the importance of cultural differences decreased and everyone accepted American ways. We should have expected such a process in the uni-polar world. But taking a purely geopolitical approach, who can guarantee that the U.S. will remain the world leader for many decades? We see China rising. Europe is getting stronger and stronger in order to beat America at its own game. We see the Islamic world uniting. Very soon the world will become a classical multi-polar model, and the new balance of power will be established. In the general case, this will introduce a “competition” of cultures, like if was in the Soviet era. This “competition” will certainly laxer and less evident, but each of the new centers of power will try to push forward its agenda backed by its national culture. How else can we explain the rise of nationalistic movements worldwide?

Moreover, the reaction to cultural imperialism might be very different in different regions. And the general trend is to reinforce cultural peculiarities and differences – that is what UNESCO, Council of Europe and a number of other organizations do. Moreover, antiglobalism as a predominant philosophy gains more and more followers:

“Since the Seattle demonstration a worldwide anti-capitalist movement has developed. Every time one of the big international capitalist institutions (IMF, WB, WTO, etc.) meets they are met with the protests of workers and youth from different parts of the world. (In Defence of Marxism, n/d, para.1)

But who knows whether antiglobalists will not fid themselves in the situation Luddites ones did: opposing the inevitable. Some scholars even view “anti-globalisation reactionary movement, which is basically a movement led by the remnants of the left in the 21st Century.  On the one hand the globalisation of the world economy is moving ahead, and on the other hand this reactionary movement is advocating the return to the past as its lost paradise.  If Marx himself was alive, he would be the first to say how reactionary the Marxists of our times are, for trying to turn back the wheel of history, rather than seeking solutions to the issues of justice in the new global economy, an economy which is a great advancement beyond the old capitalist and socialist economies of industrial society.” (Ghandchi, 2003, para.6)

It’s very hard to estimate the objective value of cultural differences. Cultural rights are declared as an inevitable part of human rights, but still they are called the second-generation rights, so is their importance lesser than of the right to life, liberty and security of person. What will the world be like without cultural differences?

But the controversy starts even with the definition of the word “culture.” Commonly recognized characteristics of a cultural or ethnic group typically include blood, language, confession, territory, self-governance, tradition and history. These values belong to the basic and universal human values, and if the significance of them decreases, it means the paradigm shift in the general philosophy of life. Globalisation plays a role, but only as a stimulus for reassessing traditional attitudes, values and preferences.

Keeping in mind that individualism is the predominant orientation in all the Western societies at the dawn of the 21st century, the importance of culture, based on collectivist values, may decrease. Individualist culture implies the vision of self as unique set of internal attributes (motivations, traits, and values), independent construal of the self, and concern with separating one’s self from others by stressing features of uniqueness and not being influenced by the rest. Collectivist culture means the vision of self as inseparable from others and social context, interdependent self-construal, and concern with affiliating with close others and fostering social connectedness. We can see that individualist interpretation of culture is more topical in the contemporary Western discourse, so it may be a contributing feature to the possible decline of attention to cultural differences, if there is any.

But in general, I don’t believe that even in hundreds of centuries all the humankind will be a global melting pot. Cultural differences will exist for the ample reason that some people will devote themselves to preserving and promoting their national culture. I strongly agree with the following statement:

“It does not make sense to talk of a world of 6 billion people becoming a monoculture. The spread of globalisation will undoubtedly bring changes to the countries it reaches, but change is an essential part of life. It does not mean the abolition of traditional values. Indeed, new global media, such as the internet, have proven a powerful means of projecting traditional culture (and the culture of radical opponents of globalisation)” (GlobalisationGuide.com, n/d, “Pro-globalisation” section, para.1-2)

But the very term “national culture” implies the existence of a certain cultural identity associated with a sovereign nation state, and “in the dominant form of national identity, it is the product of deliberate cultural construction and  maintenance via both the regulatory and the socializing institutions of the state: in particular, the law, the education system and the media.” (Tomlison, 2003, p.271)

Apart from the fact that nowadays few states boast homogenous population, the transnational nature of global politics questions the boundaries of the nation state:

“In all major areas of government policy, the enmeshment of national political communities in regional and global processes involves them in intensive issues of transboundary coordination and control.” (Held & McGrew, 2002, p.7)

In order to conclude the theoretical part of this essay, I’m going to remind that opinions on the relation between globalisation and decrease of cultural differences’ importance are very diverse and range from the most optimistic approach to the most pessimistic one. Is to assess the possible scenarios of the future development of globalisation, different views exist:

“There are those who believe in a happy globalisation: some consider that the planet is headed towards a harmonious coexistence between culture and civilisation, while the other consider that ‘the steamroller’ of globalisation will erase cultural differences. There are those who believe that the world is heading towards a clash of civilisations or towards some kind of cultural war. There are also those who think that globalisation will, by definition, be cultural because it will favour the hybridisation of cultures in various combinations and syntheses of tradition and modernity. Finally, concerning the fourth approach, globalisation appears to be a fundamentally cultural process which engenders different forms of violence.” (UNESCO, 2000, para.2)

As for my personal opinion, I wouldn’t be so optimistic about the future of globalisation, especially in the realm of culture. Rapid changes in traditional communities combined with lack of education and underdevelopment is a dangerous mixture, indeed. It may lead to civil wars, terror and hatred. Imagine a radical Islamic fundamentalist having gained access to the information about producing explosives, which can be easily found on Internet. Don’t you think he or she will attempt to use this newly acquired knowledge against the external enemy?

It’s hard to avoid clichés when speaking about globalisation, but these processes are so much hype for the ample reason they are important in everyday and business life. Susan Schneider and Jean-Louis Barsoux (2002) prove that national culture can impact on business performance by affecting management practice, from human resource management to organizational structure.

Today “[w]e are living in a global village where managers can more rapidly travel, communicate and work across cultures. The reduction in physical distance had made us more aware of cultural differences.” (Quappe & Cantatore, n/d, para.2)

But I believe that an average manager, especially if he or she works for a global enterprise, encounters so many cultures a day that he or she has a very little chance to be seriously influenced by them. Culture develops in childhood, and later life career can’t fully change the early values and attitudes. Culture deals with the subconscious sphere of an individual, and common cultural archetypes play more important role than hundreds interactions with the representatives of other cultures per day. But moving away from theory, cultural differences can be artificially actualized in the modern workplace. Being Asian-Americn or Italo-American can be nothing more but a part of personal branding, especially keeping in mind the positive discrimination campaigns and hype around cultural diversity. There is a trend to “leverage cultural diversity as powerful resource for increasing productivity and meeting the needs of the global market on a daily basis.” (Quappe & Cantatore, n/d, “What is the challenge?” para.1) The dynamic role of culture is continuously empathized. So it’s not the necessary rule that the importance of cultural differences will diminish.

Multinational companies should take cultural differences into account when planning their business activity, with a specific focus on advertising. Developing a new product or marketing campaign for it, the managers often think whether globalisation means standardisation. There are two approaches here as well: the Etic Approach and the Emic Approach. The first approach advocates the notion that products and communication stay the same across cultures, but the second one implies that products and communication largely differ between cultures, including the fact that each culture deals with attribute information and source cues in its own tradition.

The opinions about the future of globalisation are divided. Only time will prove some views to be true. In meanwhile, managers should learn how to manage cultural differences, because not they matter for the overall business performance.

References

Schneider, S.C., and Barsoux, J.-L. 2002. Managing Across Cultures, Second Edition. New York: Prentice Hall.

Tomlinson, J. 2003. Globalisation and Cultural Identity. (In The Global Transformations Reader. Held, D. & McGrew, A.(Eds.). The Global Transformations Reader, 2nd edition. Malden, Maryland: Polity Press. p.269-277.)

Held, D, McGrew, A (Eds.) 2002. Governing Globalisation. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Cantatore, G. and Quappe, S. Cultural Differences: Not just HR’s business, It’s everybody’s business. [Online]. Available: http://www.culturosity.com/articles/CulturalDifferences.htm [2 June 2005]

GlobalisationGuide.com. How does globalisation affect culture? Is it ‘Americanisation’? [Online]. Available: http://www.globalisationguide.org/07.html [2 June 2005]

In Defense of Marxism. Globalisation. [Online]. Available: http://www.marxist.com/globalisation.asp [2 June 2005]

Ghandchi, S. 1 January 2003. Anti-Globalisation Is a Reactionary Movement. [Online]. Available: http://www.ghandchi.com/177-antiglobalisation.htm [2 June 2005]

UNESCO. 2000. 21st Cetury Talks Examine Future Forms of Cultural Globalisation. [Online]. Available: ttp://www.unesco.org/bpi/eng/unescopress/2000/00-132e.shtml [2 June 2005]

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